Ignacy Łukasiewicz

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Ignacy Łukasiewicz
Ignacy Lukasiewicz.jpg
Born 8 March, 1822
Died 7 January, 1882
Nationality Polish
Occupation Pharmacist, founder of the modern petroleum industry, inventor of the modern kerosene lamp

Jan Józef Ignacy Łukasiewicz (Polish pronunciation: [wukaˈɕɛvʲitʂ]; 1822–82) was a Polish[1][2] pharmacist and petroleum industry pioneer who in 1856 built the world's first oil refinery.[3] His achievements included the discovery of how to distill kerosene from seep oil, the invention of the modern kerosene lamp (1853), the introduction of the first modern street lamp in Europe (1853), and the construction of the world's first modern oil well (1854).[4]

Łukasiewicz became a wealthy man and one of the most prominent philanthropists in Central Europe's Galicia. Because of his support for the region's economic development, a popular saying attributed all paved roads to his guldens.


Ignacy Łukasiewicz was born on 8 March 1822 in Zaduszniki, near Mielec, in the Austrian Empire (after the partition of Poland). His parents were Apolonia, née Świetlik, and Józef Łukasiewicz, a member of the local intelligentsia and a veteran of Kościuszko's Uprising.

His parents rented a small manor in Zaduszniki, but soon after Ignacy's birth had to move to Rzeszów due to financial difficulties. There Ignacy entered the local secondary school (gymnasium), but he had to leave it in 1836. To help his parents, he moved to Łańcut, where he began work as a pharmacist's assistant.

Mikolasch's Gold Star Pharmacy

He also became involved in political organizations that supported the idea of restoring Polish sovereignty. In 1840 he returned to Rzeszów, where he continued working at Edward Hübl's pharmacy. In 1845 he met Edward Dembowski, who admitted Łukasiewicz to the illegal "Centralization of the Polish Democratic Society". The organization's aim was to prepare an all-national uprising against the partitioning powers. On 19 February 1846 Łukasiewicz was arrested by the Austrian authorities and imprisoned in Lwów. On 27 December 1847 he was released from prison due to lack of evidence, but for the rest of his life he was regarded as "politically untrustworthy". He was also ordered to remain in Lwów.

There Łukasiewicz began working at the Pod Złotą Gwiazdą (Gold Star) Pharmacy owned by Piotr Mikolasch. Łukasiewicz was allowed to leave Lwów and enter Kraków University. After several years of studies, financed mostly by Mikolasch, he passed all his university examinations except for that in pharmacognosy, which prevented him from graduating. Finally on 30 July 1852 Łukasiewicz graduated from the pharmacy department at the University of Vienna. He then returned to Lwów.

Galician oil wells
Oil wells, Grabownica Starzeńska, 1930s

He had long been interested in the potential of seep oil as a cheap alternative to whale oil. In 1853 Jan Zeh,[5] together with his associate Łukasiewicz, was the first in the world to distill clear kerosene from seep oil, Canada's Abraham Gesner having first refined kerosene from coal in 1846. On 31 July 1853 Łukasiewicz made one of his kerosene lamps available to a local hospital to illuminate an emergency surgical operation.[6] The date is considered the starting point of modern oil industry.

In early 1854 Łukasiewicz moved to Gorlice, where he continued his work. He set up many companies together with entrepreneurs and landowners. That same year, he opened the world's first oil "mine" at Bóbrka, near Krosno (still operational as of 2006). At the same time Łukasiewicz continued his work on kerosene lamps. Later that year, he set up the first kerosene street lamp in Gorlice's Zawodzie district. In subsequent years he opened several other oil wells, each as a joint venture with local merchants and businessmen. In 1856 in Ulaszowice, near Jasło, he opened an "oil distillery" — the world's first industrial oil refinery. As demand for kerosene was still low, the plant initially produced mostly artificial asphalt, machine oil, and lubricants. The refinery was destroyed in an 1859 fire, but was rebuilt at Polanka, near Krosno, the following year.

By 1863 Łukasiewicz, who had moved to Jasło in 1858, was a wealthy man. He openly supported the January 1863 Uprising and financed help for refugees. In 1865 he bought a large manor and the village of Chorkówka. There he established yet another oil refinery. Having gained one of the largest fortunes in Galicia, Łukasiewicz promoted the development of the oil industry in the areas of Dukla and Gorlice. He gave his name to several oil-mining enterprises in the area, including oil wells at Ropianka, Wilsznia, Smereczne, Ropa, and Wójtowa. He also became a regional benefactor and founded a spa resort at Bóbrka, a chapel at Chorkówka, and a large church at Zręcin.

As one of the best-known businessmen of his time, Łukasiewicz was elected to the Galician Sejm. In 1877 he also organized the first Oil Industry Congress and founded the National Oil Society.

Ignacy Łukasiewicz died in Chorkówka on 7 January 1882 of pneumonia. He was buried in the small cemetery at Zręcin, next to the Gothic Revival church that he had financed.


"This liquid is the future wealth of the country, it's the wellbeing and prosperity of its inhabitants, it's a new source of income for the poor, and a new branch of industry which shall bear plentiful fruit." – 1854

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Magdalena Puda-Blokesz, Ignacy Łukasiewicz: ojciec światowego przemysłu naftowego, działacz polityczny i patriota, fi lantrop i społecznik, przede wszystkim CZŁOWIEK
  2. ^ Ludwik Tomanek, Ignacy Łukasiewicz twórca przemysłu naftowego w Polsce, wielki inicjator - wielki jałmużnik. — Miejsce Piastowe: Komitet Uczczenia Pamięci Ignacego Łukasiewicza — 1928
  3. ^ Frank, Alison Fleig (2005). Oil Empire: Visions of Prosperity in Austrian Galicia (Harvard Historical Studies). Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01887-7. 
  4. ^ Warsaw University timeline
  5. ^ Zeh Jan (Зег Ян)
  6. ^ The Ignacy Lukasiewicz Memorial Museum of Oil Industry

External links[edit]